Tuesday, November 29

Is the icing about to be put on the Haley political scandal cake?

Some folks are taking lightly the charge by South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Hartpootlian that Governor Haley is using her chef to handout birthday cakes to pet staff members.  Sure, it might seem small stuff, and it has likely been done before by a Governor.  But, Hartpootlian is an old political pro.  He knows what he is doing.  His press rant about the cakes is the icing on the Haley political scandal cake.

It started with reports about the Governor having her bodyguards fetch drinks for her and her guests.  Then, there was the famous yacht ride.  That was followed by the state paid for trip to Paris.  Wisely, the Haley trip to India was put off.  Then bloggers and others reported that she got free booze from a Columbia liquor and beer distributor and that her husband actually wanted tax payers to pay to keep the wine chilled.  Let’s not forget how Haley waffled on the Amazon development to appease Wal Mart and its power political operation.  The Govenor’s staff has destroyed public emails, and their salaries are frankly very good. 

But, all of that: cakes, booze, trips, it pales in comparison to the allegations being made about the Savannah port deal.   Governor Haley’s freshly appointed DHEC board gave the go ahead for the state of Georgia to dredge the Savannah River to expand the port at Savannah to be a deep water port that rivals that of Charleston. 

There has been a lot of head scratching over that decision by a number of political and business leaders.  Several years ago, then Governor Sanford struck up a deal with then Governor Purdue of Georgia to create a Jasper County port that would bring jobs and revenue to South Carolina.  Governor Haley seems to have broken the unwritten code of Governors of South Carolina, both Democrat and Republican, to keep to their predecessors’ word on things related to economic development for the state. 

Frankly, acting outside of the political box is Haley’s forte.  She is a rebel, have no doubt about it.  But, is she a rebel for good or for herself?  That is the question.  Blogs, such as FITSNEWS, and other sources we checked out have confirmed that Georgia businessmen with ties to the Savannah port held a fundraiser for Haley.  Then, Haley’s DHEC board gives Georgia the go ahead on Savannah, all but killing the Jasper port idea and any notions of expanding business at the Charleston port.   We are not saying there was any quid pro quo.  VUI is just saying that kind of thing looks bad, like deleting public emails does. 

It looks so bad that State Senator Harvey Peeler, (R-Gaffney), the Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Medical Affairs Committee of the State Senate that oversees DHEC, asked the Governor and her staff to come testify to his committee.  The Governor refused.  She did offer to turn over some emails and things like that. That is either funny or outrageous when one considers the Governor’s email deletion scandal. 

Such events make clear one of two things is going on.  First, the Governor and her people are such true believers and so inept that they keep stumbling into situations that more experienced politicos would avoid.  Or, they have fallen in love with their poll numbers and the handful of jobs they have announced and think that they are above the political fray and can do what they want with no consequences. 

Either scenario is dangerous for the Governor.  After all, the Governor is not even a year into her term and scandal seems to be the talk of politicos. And, make no mistake, Dick Hartpootlian is an old experienced chef who knows how and when to put the icing on the political cake. 

All that said, here is the ad being ran in the Lowcountry against Haley:

Monday, November 28

This stuff must be exposed and stopped

Syracuse University announced it fired assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine after ESPN aired comments between Fine's wife and one of the young men who accuse Fine of molesting him.  The remarks were damning, not only to Fine, but to legendary Syracuse head coach Jim Boehiem, who with all his wins and championships, looks really bad.  Boehiem not only defended his friend and assistant coach Fine, but he attacked the accusers.  

The courts will have to deal with all the allegations and who knows how that will work out.  But, things are bad in the coaching profession.  Joe Paterno already has been fired over the allegations against his assistant, Jerry Sandusky at Penn State.  Now a legendary basketball coach seems in trouble.  Add to that the situation right here in South Carolina, where the Citadel, with its sterling reputation, faces its own molestation scandal.  Indeed, former State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, a Citadel man with his own problems, wrote publicly that the Citadel President should resign.  

The situation is disgusting for someone like me.  I have coached youth basketball and football.  I currently coach interscholastic football.  I have coached championship teams.  I have coached a losing team.  I have coached with great men and lesser men. I coach for the love the game, and to see young people learn and have fun.  Never, for one moment, have I thought I coached with a pervert.  

And, lets get it straight, perverts are what these men are if they take advantage of their relationship with kids as a coach.  Such men are sick and just evil in the damage that they do to kids.  And, frankly, it is just as evil for head coaches and administrators to gloss over such behavior to protect their winning programs or institutions.  

One coach I spoke with recently presented an example that made me cringe.  He suggested that if a college recruit in a place like Bamberg or Allendale had a major college assistant coach visit him, and take his younger brother out for ice cream, and acted perverted, the little kid would not be believed.  After all he is just some poor little kid from a rural town.  His big brother not only would not get the chance to get a scholarship but would be labeled a trouble maker.  So, the abuse has a chance to flourish. 

As a coach and as a human being, I say such must be exposed and stopped.  The NCAA is all about its rules.  But those rules often lack common sense.  Maybe a coach should not be alone with kid.  That actually protects the coach from unfair allegations and the kid from a chance to be abused.  Frankly, what is worse, some assistant coach paying for a kid to attend his grandma's funeral, or going years abusing children?  The NCAA will put a program on probation for buying a kid the plane or bus ticket, but seems silent on coaches abusing kids. 

Further, what is really outrageous is the Penn State situation.  Supposedly a coach saw another coach abuse a kid.  That coach sat on that information for week or so and told the head coach, Joe Paterno.  Paterno followed university procedure and left it at that.  The assistant coach hired the abusive coach later to help him recruit, with Paterno watching over it all.  Paterno and Penn State were more worried about winning and the reputation at Penn State then sending someone with abuse allegations against him out into the community representing them.  Penn State was right to fire Paterno, but it was too late.  It is insulting that the scandal did not break until after Paterno passed Eddie Robinson for career Divison I wins.  

Now, we have the legendary Syracuse basketball program.  Boehiem acted aggressively against the young men who said they were abused. Fire him.  Send a message.  

The situation at the Citadel is something we will get into later this week.  If true, it too is disgusting.  

One thing comes from all of this.  Sexual abuse of kids must not be tolerated.  Perverts must be brought to justice.  The NCAA should step in, and if the allegations prove true, give the death penalty to any program in any sport that has a head coach and administrators who ignore such abuse. 

Frankly, if I were a head coach with Penn State on my football schedule or Syracuse on my men's basketball schedule, I would not lead my kids to compete with them.  Programs like that do not deserve the honor of competing in honored games.  Coaching, from the recreational leagues to the college ranks is about teaching kids how to compete and grow with honor and be good people.  Winning comes through that.  

If a coach, a program, or institution sacrifices the well being of just one kid to protect itself, it tarnishes the game and coaching.  There is no place for that. Time will tell what the law and the NCAA does with the scandals going on.  But, again, this abuse stuff must be exposed and stopped.  There is a sacred trust between coach and kid, and when that trust violated, all of us, not only as coaches, but as human beings, must demand that the perverts be brought to justice. 

Sunday, November 27

Thanksgiving in Paris...

Our Paris family--Thanksgiving celebration 11/26/11
 Tips and tricks to having a happy, great and successful THANKSGIVING in Paris!!!

Our normal routine is we would leave for the U.S. a week before Thanksgiving and stay there until well after the New Year, so we can visit and spend the holidays with our friends and family.  About 2-months ago, we decided, let’s give Paris a try for the holidays, since we’ve never experienced the holidays here. And, voila, here we are.

Imagine in the 4-years we have lived in Paris, this is the first time we’ve actually been here for the Thanksgiving festivities.  We’ve had early, simple Thanksgiving dinners in Paris before, but they were typically small and intimate, and we usually have them just before we leave for our annual winter “Hajj” to the U.S. for the holidays

In a lot of ways, it’s the same as in the U.S.  Although some ex-pats have Thanksgiving on the actual day (Thursday),  most ex-pats have it either the next day on Friday evening or as for us, on Saturday, which would enable our friends who work, to participate as well, of course, American Thanksgiving is not a holiday in France.  

We all stress out, because we want to make sure we have enough food, and what if we have too many desserts etc., or not enough “greens” etc., etc.,   A lot of out French friends don’t understand why we get all frenzied and worked-up, and I try to explain to them it’s part of the whole process, the excitement, the stress, the anticipation, and then the actual day of catharsis and enjoyment. Surprisingly many more French know the Thanksgiving holiday from movies.  And, they sometimes ask me is the turkey really that large, is it really that big of a festivity, and I respond, yes, to their amazement. I try to explain to them it’s the “biggest” non-denominational holiday where we will travel for miles to spend this one meal with our family and friends. 

My best friend Steve and I pretty much organized the whole Thanksgiving and there were definitely some challenges. What started as a small group of maybe 10-people reached 16.  There was a mix of American ex-pats and French.

Granted, there are several places that serve Thanksgiving dinners, and "Paris by Mouth -- Thanksgiving"  put this excellent list together where to eat; however, Steve and I wanted it to be traditional, in a home with good friends.
Let’s start with some of the obstacles we faced, needless-to-say it can be fun and challenging:

 Most of us in Paris are “room-challenged.”  Most of our apartments are small. So, Steve volunteered to hold the festivities at his apartment; by Parisian standards he has a large living/dining room combination that can easily accommodate 20+-people.  And, more importantly, he has a large kitchen.

Now this is probably the most challenging.
·        Turkey--turkey parts are easily sold in the supermarkets, e.g., thighs//legs. However, whole turkeys are not and must be ordered at a butcher shop or many of the speciality stores, such as "Thanksgiving in Paris Store".   The turkeys are medium sized and one must be careful when ordering, since Parisian apartment ovens tend to be much smaller than our American counterparts. In other words, "measure twice, cook once..." Note: Turkeys are extremely expensive. For a 10-lb turkey it can cost upwards of 70€.

Steve getting ready to put the turkey in the oven
·        Giblet gravy—If you are like me, you have to have giblet gravy. Unfortunately, you don’t always get the giblets, neck or liver from the turkey.  I have come with up a great solution.  Make your gravy as you would normally; however, buy a can or bottle of “confit gésier de canard” It’s the gizzards from the duck that have been cofit’d.  It adds incredible flavor and the gizzards are typically nice and tender.  You can also buy chicken livers in the supermarket, and you can add to that as well.
·        Corn meal—They have the “farine de maïs” (corn flour) at health food stores such as Naturalia; however, it’s not the same, nor is the Italian polenta.  I find that Latin American markets such as “Latino Market 55 Rue Firmin Gillot in the 15eme carries corn meal, and is exactly what you find in the U.S.
      Appetizers--try to serve cold or room temperature appetizers beforehand, hence, freeing up space in your kitchen and more importantly, freeing up your oven.

Room temperature appetizers

·        Cranberries (canneberges)—this can be challenging to find. Yes you can find them, but they’re typically in very small bags, almost the size of a bag of M&M’s, and quite expensive (4-5€), in places such as Bon Marché, or Monoprix.  Personally, I would recommend that if you have a friend coming in from the US just before Thanksgiving ask them to transport fresh cranberries. They can be stored in a small portable cooler and placed in your check-in baggage. If you don’t care about having fresh cranberries, they do sell canned cranberries at International markets such as Bon Marché or Thanksgiving in Paris store etc.
·        Pumpkin (potiron)—canned pureed pumpkins do not exist; however, fresh pumpkins can easily be found in Paris. You will; however, need to bake them, and mash them to use for your e.g., pumpkin pie.
·        Pecans—for e.g., pecan pie can easily be found in Paris. Try to get them in bulk at the markets.  Pecans and walnuts are extremely expensive. I typically bring costco size bags when I return from the US.  And, as for corn syrup, you can easily find them at the Asian markets in the Korean or Japanese section, and they're usually labeled in English, along with Korean or Japanese.  If you prefer using maple syrup, this is now easily available at any major supermarket.

Our fabulous dessert table

·        Buttermilk—for your biscuits can easily be found at the Arab markets or at the supermarkets in the yoghurt section and labeled under “Lait Ribot” or “Yoplait, lait fermenté”.  Note:  they tend to be much richer than your American counterpart.
·        Sweet potatoes (patates douces)—These too can easily be found at any produce store.  However, the color is a little anemic compared to the American version, but works and tastes great.  If you are going to make sweet potato pie, you’ll need to bake and mash the potatoes as you would regular potatoes.
·        Cream Cheese—This was once very difficult to find. I remember getting cream cheese at Bon Marché at 4€ for 4-ounces.  The American “Philadelphia” cream cheese have been recently introduced to the French market and can be easily found at almost any French supermarket at a cost of 1.50€ for 4-ounces.  Note: if you are making a cheesecake, speculoos cookies found everywhere, makes the perfect crust.
·        Crusts—Although you can find all sorts of store-bought crusts in France, I find them to be a lot tougher than our flaky crusts back home. And, there's no beating homemade crust. With that said, I would suggest for a flakier crust, make it yourself. You can purchase "graisse végétale" a great Crisco substitute which is typically found in the butter section, and in some cases the freezer section of the grocery store.
·        Flour—you can find all purpose flour called, “tout usage” (all usage) at some markets.  If you need flour for specific type of baking see the following:
American Cake & Pastry: Type 45
American  All-Purpose & Bread: Type 55
American High Gluten: Type 65
American Light Whole Wheat: Type 80
American  Whole Wheat: Type 110
American Dark Whole Wheat: Type 150

Cooking in a typical Parisian kitchen can be quite challenging.  First of all the ovens are much, much smaller. And, in some ovens as in Steve’s, the heating element is at the top and bottom of the oven, which is normal operation.  You cannot just have the bottom heating element on. This poses quite a challenge, since the top of the turkey takes up about 90% of the space.  Hence, the top portion of the turkey (e.g., breast) is about 2-inches from the top heating element.  With that said, you will need to tent the turkey with aluminum foil until maybe the last 30-45 minutes of roasting, at which time you can remove it to crisp the skin. Note: temperatures are in centigrade, hence, a typical 325F = 162.8C; 350F = 176.7C; 375F = 190.6C.

Proud daddy posing with his 10-lb baby!
Don’t even think about deep frying a turkey.  With such tight quarters chances of a grease fire are much, much greater.  And, smoking a turkey is also out of the question, since it’s illegal to have BBQ’s or smokers in residential apartments, even if you have a terrace or balcony.

            Tips and Tricks:
  • ·        Having 2-ovens is unheard of in Paris, unless you had your apartment remodeled to American standards.  Desserts should be made the day before. And, if you have a small refrigerator try and stay away from anything that needs to be chilled.
  • ·        Stuffing, candied yams, spring bean casserole, corn bread, rolls, etc. that need oven time should be made first, because once you have the turkey in the oven, that’s it, you will not have any room for any other food items.  You can always reheat e.g., the casseroles in the microwave.
  • ·        Keep mashed potatoes over boiling hot water or a warming plate to keep warm, and put it aside somewhere, which will allow you to use your stove-top to cook or use as a prep station, since many Parisian kitchens have very little counter-space.
  • ·        Always, always clean as you go to avoid unnecessary clutter in the kitchen and give you more work space. And, if you have a dishwasher load as you go and immediately wash, and unload for the next following batches.
  • ·        Try to limit the number of people in your kitchen, or just yourself if you have a very tiny kitchen.  It can be very dangerous, especially if knifes are flying around.

Food, glorious food!
 Most of the American ex-pats are from different parts of the US.  So, with our regional differences, many brought dishes typical of their family or region.  For example, our good friend Gina made a “corn pudding” a very southern dish which I’ve never had, and it was delicious.  Steve’s family hails originally from Ohio, and he made a fresh cranberry jello pudding, again it was my first time to ever have this, and it too was delicious. Zabie made baked onions stuffed with spinach,  and I made a vegan "Poor Man's Sushi" which hails from Hawaii, and so many other dishes were made which truly made this bountiful meal a diverse and joyous holiday.

Needless to say, we had a most wonderful, wonderful Thanksgiving. Although I miss my family, I don’t regret staying here for the holidays, because of all our wonderful friends who have become our families.

Here's some great entertaining reading:

Art Buchwald on "A Turkey with French Dressing"


When Continents Collide: The Tribulations of Making (and Serving) Thanksgiving Dinner in Paris by David Jaggard

  (see comments section for extra tips)

Wednesday, November 23

The Sixth Annual VUI Thanksgiving Political Awards

Again, VUI is handing out its coveted Thanksgiving political awards. This is the sixth year we have done so. This year, we will keep it simple and just list the winners.  Here we go. 

The Cornbread Dressing Award for Career Achievement goes to former State Representative Dan Cooper of Williamston.  Cooper resigned at the end of the session of General Assembly  this Spring.  Cooper served as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and was often a conservative voice with reason in that position. Cooper resigned to spend more time with his family, something we at VUI applaud.  Cooper served the people of South Carolina well in his time in office and earned our recognition. 

The Cranberry Sauce Award for Local Government achievement goes to Aiken County Assistant Solicitor Steve Kodman.  Kodman lost his battle with cancer on November 14th of this year. But, as he battled cancer, Kodman continued to move cases along as a prosecutor.  He showed how a man does things as he goes out.  Kodman served the people well until his last day.  That said, VUI must mention Kodman's boss, Strom Thurmond, Jr., and how he worked with and honored Kodman.

The Holiday Ham Award, given to the biggest self promoter in South Carolina politics again goes to Will Folks.  His self important blogging about his love hate relationship with Governor Haley and the University of South Carolina continues at a high level.  Folks is not a bad guy, but no one loves to read his own words on the internet more than he does. 

That brings us at VUI to the political Turkey of the Year Award.  This one is difficult.  There are so many to choose from.  Michelle Bachmann comes to mind.  Ron Paul comes to mind.  Herman Cain comes to mind.  President Obama has a claim.  But, in the end, we at VUI give the award to Lt. Governor Ken Ard. Ard was a hero a year ago, but remains under investigation for his campaign finance issues now.  We give the nod to Ard, because his antics give ammunition to people who want to make his position appointed instead of elected.  Few have degraded the prestige of their office the way Ard has.  It will only get worse in 2012.

That brings us to the Holiday Fruitcake Award.  This one has been controversial.  People get upset when their pet political figures are called fruitcakes.  Again, Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul come to mind. But in the end we dub the "Occupy" movement.  Those folks claim to be for the people, but they urinate and defecate in parks and grounds that belong to the people.  When responsible government officials ask to clear them and just clean up, the "Occupy" people sue and go nuts.  God bless them for excersing their rights to assemble and protest.  But, geez, come on, let people clean up after you.  What started out as a legitmitate protest has turned into people disrespecting their fellow taxpayers by defecating and urinating in public places.  Grow up people!

The Golden Drumstick goes to the politician or politico with the best performance.  Attorney General Alan Wilson deserves some recognition for his performance.  Wilson had a lot of naysayers, but he has turned out to be a proven crime fighter and good lawyer for South Carolina.  But, the Golden Drumstick goes to Newt Gingrich. Six months ago, Newt was done. The so called professionals left him.  Now his idea driven campaign makes him a real contender in South Carolina and for the nomination to be President of the United States.  Newt's return from the politically dead earns him the Golden Drumstick.

Tuesday, November 22

Newt Gingrich is the smartest man in the room

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich showed again Tuesday night what we at VUI have known all along, he is the smartest man in the room when Republicans get together to debate. 

Gingrich does not throw out red meat for conservative activists on issues like Medicare and immigration.  Instead he delivers heaping doses of reality and reason and argues for conservative approaches that deal with reality.  

Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan is solid on the economic front.  But, frankly, Gingrich has more depth on the wide range of issues that faces a President of the United States.  Rick Perry seems lost.  Michelle Bachman and Ron Paul's ideological zeal does not embrace reality.  Jon Huntsman seems to be running for Secretary of State.  The former Senator from Pennsylvania seems to be running for the head of the Christian Coalition.  Mitt Romney, despite his money and the fact he has been running for five years, still comes across as a mid market tv news anchor trying to craft his words to keep his market share. 

Then, there is Gingrich.  He is a man with admitted personal baggage.  But, he has the experience and the depth of knowledge to know what he can do and what he can't do.  Gingrich is serious and thoughtful.  The others seem handled.  

Frankly put, a debate between President Obama and Gingrich would be one for the ages.  It would rival Kennedy and Nixon.  Such a race would give America a real debate and real choice between two heavyweights. 

In that match, VUI thinks Gingrich would prevail.  But, for that to happen, Gingrich must win the GOP nomination.  Nominating Gingrich would be the smart thing for the GOP to do, but the question is will the GOP do it? 

It will be a classic showdown.  Romney will have the professionally crafted soundbites.  Others will throw out the so call red meat.  Gingrich will appeal to thinking about solutions to our problems.  

One thing is certain, big Obama supporters do not want to face Gingrich.  They might act like they are chomping at the bit to go after his personal issues, but more than one Obama supporter has told VUI that they fear facing Gingrich in a debate. 

They should.  He is the smartest man in the room among the Republicans and would be with the President.  To be clear, the President can and will beat the others.  Gingrich would make the President seem like a lightweight. 

Emails are public record

Say what you will about the Occupy Columbia movement, but one of the attorneys representing the protesters stumbled upon something that should bother us all.  Governor Nikki Haley and her staff routinely delete taxpayer paid for email messages to one another.  

Now we all delete emails.  Most of our email inboxes are filled with junk emails ranging from schemes to get us to deposit money to get money to things that tell us how to have better sex lives.  

But, in this age, government emails are public records.  Emails are the typed memos of yesterday that give the public and the press an idea about how decisions are made in government and how state government officials react to events of the day.  The people are entitled to have such emails saved and available for public scrutiny. 

We now know that Governor Haley and her people delete their emails to one another.  Such is self serving and an insult to the people of South Carolina.  It is especially insulting when one considers how Governor Haley ran a campaign promising open and accountable state government. Frankly put, deleting emails slaps the face of every South Carolinian who voted for Governor Haley thinking she would be open. 

Perhaps Governor Haley and her people are just ignorant. But, one thing is clear.  The taxpayers of South Carolina pay for the government internet access and the emails in question.  As such, they are entitled to know the contents of such emails that they pay for. 

If Governor Haley and her staff have things that must be deleted, let them email via private accounts that they pay for.  Otherwise, deleting official emails plays into the hands of conspiracy theorists, activists and others.  In other words, it is just plain politically dumb.  

If you doubt that, look at what deleting official emails has done to Governor Haley's position on the Occupy Columbia crowd.  Haley had ordered them to leave State House grounds by 6PM.  Now she is backing off that stand as it becomes obvious that the Governor who promised to be so open is not that open after all. 

Chances are there is nothing sinister in the deleted emails.  But, the act of deleting them begs the question of what was in them.  Such a trivial thing can derail a Governor's agenda.  It also shows a marked ignorance of the world we live in today.

For we live in a world in which emails and text messages are the accepted form of communication.  When such things are deleted by government officials, it is as offensive to the public as destroying files and memos.  And it is certainly not the stuff a Governor and Administration committed to openness does.  

Saturday, November 19

Steve Kodman

I lost one of my best friends recently.  Most of you in the political world will never know the name of Steve Kodman.  Frankly, Kodman would have it that way.

But, he was my friend, one of my truest friends.  I met him way back in 1988 at a scholarship competition at then Lander College.  We both were interviewing for full scholarships.  Kodman oozed confidence.  He spoke to me, right away, about a girl he wanted to date.  She was a softball star named Jennifer.  Steve and I both ended up at Lander with scholarships and we struck a friendship up that has been one of the richest in my life.  Steve taught me how to coach when we coached basketball together.

When Steve’s car was not up to par, I would drive him to Clemson to see his softball star. I was fortunate to be one of the men who stood by Steve as he took Jennifer for his wife back in 1994.  I was there when their first boy was born. As fate would have, I was one of the men who toted Steve to his final resting place.  All of it was a privilege .  Steve was there for me in so many ways.

Fraternally, he was my “big brother,” ushering me through the pledging process.  But, more than that, he always was a brother to me. He was a real big brother.  He was my coach, my mentor. He was a man who showed me, even sick, how to be a man.   I always looked up to him and followed him to USC Law and took his career advice.  At my lowest moments, Steve always had my back.

So, it crushed me when I could not have his.  After we worked together to get Alan Wilson nominated as the Republican candidate for Attorney General last summer, I learned that Steve was diagnosed with Stage Four Lung Cancer.  When he was diagnosed, Steve had cancer that had spread to his bones in his ribs.

Steve spent his life fighting for the right things, as a prosecutor in Aiken, Lexington and Horry counties and in the Attorney General’s office.  So when faced with the fight of his life, Steve fought with the courage that defined him.  Steve had a way of encouraging people who were trying to encourage him. That was his way.  Steve Kodman was John Wayne in a puissant world and I will get sideways with anyone who says otherwise.

But, like so many, Steve lost his fight.  I lost one of the best friends I ever had.  But my own self pity is tempered when I think how his wife Jennifer lost a beloved husband and how his boys, Patrick, Thomas and Drew lost a devoted father.

I have traveled a lot through this state.  I met all kinds of people.  God has blessed me with that.  But, in all my travels, in all my experiences, I never met a soul more dedicated to doing right than Steve Kodman.  He was loyal to his wife and kids.  He was loyal to his friends.  He fought for justice.  I will miss him so much, and this world will be less without him in it.  Rest in Peace, my brother.

Friday, November 4

Cobéa -- Restaurant Review

Cobéa Restaurant

11, rue Raymond Losserand
75014 Paris
tel : +33(1) 43 20 21 39
Closed Sunday and Monday
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  2.5 - Stars.................................................................................................1 - Bell

An online friend, John Talbott, who is now my "BFF", has a very popular food blog http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/that I’ve been a big fan of since moving to Paris in 2008. He invited us to join him for lunch. I didn’t really care where we were going  for lunch, I was more excited to finally meet him in person.  He recommended Cobéa http://cobea.fr/en/since it was recommended by a friend, so it would be a new experience for all of us.

The restaurant was a concept from Philippe Bélissent, formerly of Laurent, Ledoyen, and Le Restaurant in L’Hôtel, and his partner, the maître d’ Jérôme Cobou, located close to Montparnasse. Recently opened, a little more than 2-months ago.

Black/Gray/White interior

Our reservation was for 12:30, and as we stepped in I noticed a very monochromatic color scheme of white, black and gray.  It was pretty devoid of any color, probably so diners can focus on the food.  The restaurant layout et.al. was actually quite nice, if you like that modern feel. It didn’t seem French to me at all.  And, they had an interesting glass floor by the bathroom where you could see the wine cellar below.

Glass floor overlooking wine cellar
John showed up shortly after we arrived, and our waiter gave us the menu and wine list.  We started first by ordering wine, primarily by price (cheapest), Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages, but turned out to be one of the highlights for lunch.

We pretty much all decided we were going to the pre-fix menu for 38€, which included the following:

Razor-fish; squid and parsley or Foie Gras; pan-fried, pasta and girolles
Cod Fish; cauliflower or Wild Young Partridge, caramelized chicory
 Desserts and coffee

Gimmicky hand wash


We got a small little white rolled up tube, what looked to me like a tampon, sorry if I offended any of my woman friends, but that's what it looked like.  Our waiter explained that we needed to plop into our glass, then use it to clean our hands.  And, as I did, it literally sucked up all the water.  I was curious if there was any lemon or alcohol in this hand wash, so being the crude person that I am took a sip of it, yuk, oh well, you can’t take me anywhere!

Chevré balls

Our amuse bouche was a croquette stuffed with chevré (goat cheese). I liked it, but it was deep-fried and who wouldn’t like something fried, n’est-ce pas?  Surprisingly, another amouse bouche came out and it was a teeny, tiny stuffed crab. I liked it because it tasted like crab. John is from Baltimore, renowned for crab, he mentioned that typically French crabs are not very good.  But for me, it was tasty, but I’m not a crab connoisseur.

Stuffed teeny-tiny crab

For our entrées, Jack got the razor back clams which was the highlight of Jack’s meal. He loved it, I tasted it, I don’t particularly care for “foams”, but it was extremely tasty. 

Razor clam
Foie gras with stuffed pasta

John and I had the foie gras, and the pasta with girolles.  The pasta was a small shell pasta stuffed with girolles and some type of unidentifiable meat. The pasta was not al dente, but rubbery. However, the foie gras was nice and seared on the outside and nice and tender inside.

Now here’s where we start going down hill, our main courses:

Jack and I had the Cod Fish and cauliflower. I have to say it did look pretty; however, I haven’t tasted anything so bland in a long time.  I would’ve even preferred it to be fishy over having no taste at all. It desperately needed some acid, lemon would’ve definitely given it some depth.  The sauce was also quite glutinous, almost “”cornstarchy”, if there is such an adjective.  We had to ask for salt and pepper. I must’ve doused so much pepper, the pristine white plate looked like someone splattered dirt on it, oh well.

John had the partridge. I had a taste of it, but it was a bit rubbery, and it was not very exciting.  John did ask for it to be on the more rare side; unfortunately, it was more on the well done side. For all I know it could’ve been a piece of overcooked chicken.

Interestingly, John uses a phrase called “U” meal.  Wow, I asked, “what does this mean?” Basically, the food is on a high then it starts declining and maybe goes back up again.  So, I asked if I could use this phrase, ‘cause I love it.


Jack was the only one who had a cheese course.  He had the comté.  It was accompanied by a sabayon (which he didn't want). I thought for sure it was going to be a sweet sabayon.  I tasted it, and it was not pleasant. It was savory and “salty” that could have been used on the fish.  I can’t imagine adding that sabayon to the comté, since comté already has a strong taste.  The cheese had “colored” sprinkles on top of it, according to Jack it didn’t taste like anything, it was just superfluous.  Well the red did give the restaurant some color at least.

Afterwards, desserts came:

It was an odd mix of very, very sour dishes and very, very sweet dishes.  I get sweet and sour in one dish, but this was a bit odd for me.

Spéculoos Mousse

For our first dessert we got a sorbet of lemon and ginger. I wanted to say, man this is sour, but my lips puckered up so much, I couldn’t even say the words.  It was one of the most sour desserts I’ve ever tasted.  The second dessert was a spéculoos mousse over a spéculoos cookie sitting atop some chocolate ganache. The mousse was very creamy and as you dug in and hit the chocolate it was a nice little surprise. I happen to like spéculoos, so it was good dessert for me.

Passion fruit

Then we got a plate of passion fruit (lilikoi) and some lemon tarts.  The passion fruit was just awful. I'm a tropical fruit, so I know my fruit. Whoever their provider is, needs to be fired. Passion fruit should be succulent, sweet, aromatic and make you want to be passionate.  All it did for me was make me bitchy.
Lemon tarts

The lemon tart crust was interesting, it was encrusted with “demara” sugar. I liked the crust part better than the filling.


This is an expensive restaurant for the type of food you get. For 3-people, the bill came to almost 200 Euros.  All of us gave the food a 2 over 5 score; however, I gave them credit for their service. The service was excellent, so I bumped up my overall score to 2 1/2 .  Would I go back?  probably not. Will it improve? I hope so, because they do have a great concept albeit a lot of clichés.  And, in their defense, they still are relatively new, so probably still refining their menu.

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